The best direct view sets have always been made by Loewe, and they do make a 16:9 38" set called the Aconda that is fantastic. It is out of your price range at $5k, but it is big and beautiful. They also make a 30" model for $3k that is equally good and perfectly flat, but it is a little small for some people especially when viewing 4:3 material. We carry Loewe so feel free to email me directly with any questions.
You may be pleased to know that Gateway is beginning to sell 42" plasma TVs (16:9) for $2995 this week. It's the lead story on the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater site: http://www.guidetohometheater.com/shownews.cgi?1423. Apparently, Gateway hasn't been doing very well, and they need to boost traffic at their Country Stores. While the prices for plasmas are still dropping as production costs keep ramping down, this particular price point appears to be very close to what the manufacturing cost is today, and of course dramatically below the competition.
If you are a fan of Sony, their 16:9 LCD Grand WEGA (50" and 60") is due out relatively soon... I think Toshiba has an interesting 50" DLP 16:9 as well that is just out. I know you said direct view, but you might want to at least look at some of the newer technologies--not your classic RPTV. My 36" XBR has gotta weigh 250+ lbs and is almost 2' deep. The DLP/LCD technologies are brighter than the old RPTVs, have a reasonable depth (e.g., 18"), and weight significantly less--most under 150 lbs.
Thanks for the responses so far. Symphony Sound, I've heard of Loewe, but I've never seen them. I want larger than 34", the price on the 38" is a little steep. I could get plasma for that. Which I have considered Jameswei, however on a visit to my local Tweeter store, the manager told me that plasma are basically none repairable. Even if you spend an extra $600 or so for the extended service contract (4years), that if something goes wrong after that, you can just throw them away. Needless to say this turned me off of plasma. The picture is beautiful, but if I were to stretch above $3K, I couldn't risk it possibly being a paperweight in 5 years. Has anyone else heard this about plasma? I can't see a salesman telling me that to screw a sale for himself.
Edesilva, I went around a couple weeks ago looking at RPTV's. Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Sony, Pioneer, none of them fit the bill for me. I have 3 children, and as many as 5 people watching a movie. The setup of my A/V room is such that the viewing angle of RPTV is not good enough. Not to mention that it doesn't look as clear straight on as direct view. It may be thinner and lighter, but the picture isn't as good. I stopped looking for RPTV's on my last trip into Tweeter, when I saw the plasma screens. It was obvious to everyone that the RPTV could not compete picture wise. My initial response was, I'll wait another year or two until plasma falls into my price range. Then, talking with my wife last night, she actually made sense this time when she said that it makes no sense to spend the money on a format that is expensive AND unrepairable. No matter how much we both loved the picture. Direct view isn't plasma, but a hell of a lot better than RPTV, in my opinion (as well as my wife and children). So I thought I'd start to investigate 16:9 direct view sets. I know they are heavy, but I don't move them often. As I stated in opening RCA was the only manufacturer that I know of that makes a 38" 16:9 set. I've heard terrible things about it. Sony makes a 40", but it's a 4:3 set. So I was just curious as to if I had other direct view options. The Loewe sounds like one option, albeit an expensive one. I hope this adds a little more clarity to my original post. Keep the comments coming. I'm still interested in plasma, if I find out that they can be fixed. However it looks like right now direct view is the way for ME to go, if there is anything coming down the pipeline.
Thanks again for your input.
Here's the story as I got it from a Fujitsu factory technician: The plasma screen material, itself, is non-repairable. However (according to him...I have no direct knowledge), the screen almost never fails. Other components are just as repairable as any other piece of digital hardware. He also noted that mfgrs' warranties and most extended warranties provide for product replacement if the device is unrepairable. Hardly seems likely that you'd end up with a $5K paperweight.
By all accounts, the Loewe Aconda (30 and 38 inch versions) is the Rolls Royce of direct view TV's (there are more permutations available in Europe, but they are essentially variations on the same tubes). The picture on each of them is hard to beat and, as far a TV sets as objects, I've never seen one prettier.
As far as I understand it, though, the 16:9 tube on the 38" is pretty much as large as you can get without losing some serious ground on the picture-quality front so, although I know nothing about the larger Sony, to hear that there are picture quality issues at least fits (the electron gun that "paints" the picture on the back of the tube can only disburse so much from side to side before becoming a lot less effective, or something like that). That said, although the picture on the 38" is undeniably amazing, in order to get the larger picture the tube (and thus the screen) is noticably curved (again, about angling the edged to catch the info from the gun, or somethign) -- which is not a problem in itself, just stands out a bit these days where everything new and fancy seems to be flat. I was going to get an Aconda myself, but I'm now in the process of trying to talk myself in to a plasma screen -- I've found spots on the internet where it seems you can pick up a pretty nice (though not full HDTV) 42" plasma for about the same at the 30" Aconda. I want it to be an option....
Following up on the Loewe gear...
We sell all sorts of stuff from plasma to RPTV to Loewe direct view, etc.
Nothing I have ever seen comes close to a Loewe direct view. No RPTV, no plasma. The closest thing I've seen from Plasma is the ReVox 42" which retails for $11k. It looks about as good as the Loewe, which is to say it looks vastly superior to any other plasma on the market.
RPTV - especially LCD based - can't touch Loewe. That is not to say that RPTV is all bad. On the contrary there are some excellent sets out there, including the big Sony's (CRT based - not LCD based) which are some of the best I've seen. There are some other good ones as well, including Zenith. But it's never going to be as pristine as direct view - it will just be bigger.
Personally I would not waste your time with a cheaper plasma TV. They have mediocre black levels, grainy texture, poor contrast, poor color bandwidth, and are proving to suffer burn in from long term viewing, especially if you crank up the brightness and contrast to make the set look better. Also many of them have progressive scan upsamplers on board that are less than stellar and hence they introduce artifacting. One of the best features on the Loewe is their world class de-interlacing technology which is by far the best I've ever seen. Virtually no artifacting. They also have two different modes, which are useful for different types of footage (quick, choppy action or long panoramic scenes)
As for larger CRT's - Mezmo is correct that they are having trouble with the sets larger than 38" and this is why Loewe has not developed a set to compete with Sony's. They are working on it but they claim they cannot get it to display to their standards, which are obviously extremely high. You run into a number of problems, not the least of which is an incredibly thick (and heavy) glass which makes the sets a logistical nightmare. The 38" Aconda is already over 200 lbs. But of course there are technological problems which complicate the process of making a 40" or larger direct view set.
If you cannot afford a Loewe, get a Sony. While not as good as Loewe they are still excellent and much better than any other direct view set out there. And we don't carry Sony so I have no agenda when I say that.
The 30" Loewe Aconda for $3k is one of the most spectacular bargains in high definition home theater. It smokes anything I've ever seen except its bigger brother, and at $3k you simply cannot find a set based on any other technology that comes even close. You can find a bigger set I am sure, but it won't look nearly as good.
If you don't believe me go check out a Loewe at a local dealer. You will buy it on the spot. It's the easiest damn thing to sell in our store. People see them and just whip out their credit cards.
To jump on Edesilva's bandwagon, DLP and LCD RPTV may be an option. These ARE NOT typical RPTV's. Samsung just released a 43" RPTV DLP for $3400 and a 50" for $4000. Unlike traditional RPTV, they are much lighter, are not as limited in viewing angles as traditional RPTV (one of your big concerns) and supposedly does not suffer from pictue burn-in. The biggest downside is you must replace the bulb every few thousand hours at a cost of a few hundered dollars. BestBuy will be the first to display the lower end models and Tweeter will be as well, although I'm not sure which models. Soon I believe Mitusbishi will release a RPTV DLP. Toshiba also makes a 40" and 45" LCD reat projection with the same advantages. I am no expert in this technology and the picture quality is not up to the best direct views, but it does seem to be an option for you.
The sweet spot in 16:9 direct view tv's seems to be 34" to 36". There are several models in this range. You might want to look at the 4:3 40" Sony. It is my understanding that it uses all of it's resolution even in letterbox (bars on top & bottom) mode. If you are watching any 4:3 material, you will like full-screen a lot better than windowbox (bars on sides). I read an article that suggests that you look at the horizontal width (not diagonal) of the screen and get the biggest you can get within your limitations. The bottom line was that a letterbox picture on a 4:3 40" is probably comparable to 16:9 36". However, the 4:3 picture on the 4:3 40" is much larger than a windowbox on 36"-38" 16:9 screen.
I have not seen the new DLP sets, but they have received some favorable reviews.
Good luck in your quest.
In reference to the Gateway Plasma TV that I have seen on TV this past weekend when I was watching college football last Saturday, and NFL Football yesterday, while Gateway was displaying computer systems starting from as low as $400.00 (and I am supposed to be trying to get me a new computer system sometime this coming year...... and unfortunately, I am still holding out to get me a another Dell. But at those prices Gateway is charging for a new system themselves, do any of you think I still want a another Dell????? At Gateway's prices, that answer has to be "SHITTTTTTTTTT (sounding very resounding about it)"!!!!!!!!!), they were displaying a Plasma TV system that is priced at $3,000.00. I have read the article on "Stereophile's" Home Theater Site, and it has confirm this. What Gateway is trying to do is become a full range electronics company and sell electronics in addition to computers. But then again, didn't they attempted this feat a few years ago when they have sold a PC Home Theater System featuring a big screen Princeton Monitor with a Harman/Kardon Audio System????
Hell, I may go to my local Gateway store this coming Friday (which is going to be my day off of work -- YAY YAYYYYYY!!!!!!!!), and check out this plasma set that Gateway is supposed to offering to the public at such a groundbreaking price. And maybe I can look at and configure a new computer system while I am there. I'll have some kind of idea as to how good this set really is after I get finish checking it out. If it turns out to be anything decent at all, then there might be still hope for someone like me yet sometime down the road. To me, that may mean that a good and affordable plasma might finally just be around the corner. Who knows???? We can all only hope, right. And there is nothing wrong with hoping, is there. If for nothing else, I may just get me a new computer out of the deal.
And as an addend to my previous post, if anyone is interested in checking this TV out for themselves, the link is:
I hope this link works. If it doesn't, then just go to "www.gateway.com". They'll somehow direct you to check out the plasma tv that they are carrying.
Later and Regards......
I am curious about the Gateway Plasma TV. In the product specs it says: Number of pixels 852 (horizontal, RGB Trio) X 480 (vertical) pixels. Does this mean it cant do 1080i HDTV?
The 40" Sony XBR is a huge television--you won't be moving it around a whole lot--but it did get good reviews. Bbroussard is right--a 16:9 letterboxed picture on a 40" 4:3 TV is roughly the size you would get out of a 36" 16:9 TV. By the same math, the letterboxed pic on a 36" 4:3 is slightly larger than a 32" 16:9 and slightly smaller than a 34" 16:9.
If you are planning to view a lot of 16:9 material, TV width is definitely what to look at. For a 4:3 TV, the width is 0.8 x D (where D = diag. measurement). For a 16:9, the width is roughly 0.87 x D.
Bbyer--you might look into www.avsforum.com, but I don't think there are *any* plasma TVs right now that can do 1080i; but, 720p is also considered "HDTV".
I've spent the past two days straight horribly obsessed with the idea of plasma screens and learning everything I can. Yes, Gateway is retailing a plasma screen for $3k -- it is supposedly a rebranded Sampo and widely considered very inferior, especially compared to the new Pioneer models (which are considered state of the art) and the NEC models, which are only slightly behind the Pioneers. Edesilva is right, avsforum is an amazing resource for this stuff, although there is a sometimes conflicting and somewhat confusing info there. plasmatvbuyingguide.com also has some really informative, and at least apparently objective, reviews of most of the contenders in the field.
The 30" Loewe is undeniably gorgeous, but street price on the 42" Panasonic (braodcast version TH42PWD5UY with 853X480 resolution) is between $3.5 and $3.8k (MSRP is $6k). I've rarely seen the Loewe, which has fairly small and restricted distribution in the U.S., for much less than its $3.6k MSRP. At more-or-less the same price tag, 42" is a whole lot more realestate than 30".... What can I say, I spent a full two years obsessed with the Loewe but could never convince myself to actually pull the trigger because, at that price, 30" just looks, well, small. If, in my setup, I were sitting closer to it, that could be fine -- but I'm not. Mileage will vary.
Mezmo, I'm not sold on plasma. Sure it looks great, but even the salesman can't tell you how long it'll last. I was doing some research and even the proponants of plasma think the set will last 12 years or more. That part sounds okay, but then they add if you only use it for 4 hours a day and keep the brightness turned down. I have a family and that tv will be used about 8 hours a day on average, which translates into I'll be lucky to get 6 years out of it. For $4-5K, I need more than that. As for the Loewe, I did some searching on that as well. It seems that EVERYONE loves the look of them, no one doubts the beautiful picture. However, there seem to be quite a few complaints about reliability and customer service. At this point I'm leaning towards Edesilva and Bbroussard, I'm looking at Sony 36XBR800 and the 40XBR800. I think the 40 may be a little big for my room, so I'm leaning towards the 36" one at this time. Thanks for all the great feedback.
I only have one other question at this time. What is it with silver? My audio rig is all black, one of the compromises I make for my wife. My current 32" Sony is balck. Yet every CRT TV I've looked at that sells for over $1.5K is silver. That's not gonna fly with the WAF. Maybe a can of spray paint.......
Have you seen the Panasonic CT-34WX52? I have been looking at TVs for *months* and it has a beter picture than the Sonys, without a doubt. The WEGAS are really good in their category (I have a 27" WEGA) but that Panasonic is really something...
Here's the link:
Psychicanimal, I haven't seen this particular model yet. I have seen Toshiba and Sony 34" 16:9 screeens, and felt they were too small. As mentioned in the threads above a 36" 4:3 screen will give me a 33" 16:9 picture. Since 80% of my watching is not in 16:9 mode, this would mean that 80% of the time I'd have a bigger tv than the 34" model. If I do rearrange my whole room (not likely) and get the 40", that translates to 36" 16:9 screen. If I went 16:9, I'd like to see a 38" screen. 34" inch screens just seem a tad small to me. That being said, I can't rule them out all together yet. Thanks for the link.
Mcgrogan, have you ever taken a line conditioner w/ you when shopping for TVs? There's so much grunge in TV stores it's really hard to make good comparisons. I have taken my Tice A/V Solo and the salespeople wow themselves at the difference in picture quality and depth...
There's a rear projection I really like and think it's the best buy of all TVs, dollar for dollar: the 43" Hitachi ($1700-1800, interest free for 1 yr). I am sure a good used Tice Infinite Speed or PC3 Power Cord and an isolation transformer will deliver a great picture.
Psychicanimal, no I can't say that I've taken a line conditioner in with me for comparison shopping. I do agree that TV's stores have awful power. What bothers me more though is when the salesmen tinker with the sets settings, to make the one they want to sell look better. My sister has the 43" Hitachi, and it is beautiful, for RPTV. If I was looking in that direction, it IS the one I would get. However RPTV has too limited a viewing angle for my whole family/room. I don't think a power conditioner will increase the viewing angle. Thanks for the feedback though. Right now I'm leaning towards the Sony KV36XBR800. Great picture in 4:3 and 16:9 and Sony just increased the standard warranty to 2 years parts and labor. If Best Buys carried this model I'd probably buy it tomorrow. Since this weekend is their customer appreciation days (10% off) and 18 month 0% financing. Alas, they don't carry this model. Oh well, I CAN be patient.....I think.......
I just bought the new Panasonic 36" 4:3 HDTV (36HX42) from my favorite audio/video dealer for $1500, so as to get larger 16:9 movies than my older 31" Proscan. Getting a 16:9 shaped screen seemed silly as it's MUCH smaller on regular 4:3 broadcasts, and costs more! The 36" 4:3 HDTV-ready sets from Panasonic (smaller cabinet dimensions blend with an HT system better) or Sony (flashier, larger cabinet...MAYBE crisper picture) are pretty nice in the $1500-1700 range....
"What bothers me more though is when the salesmen tinker with the sets settings, to make the one they want to sell look better."
Last week I went to Circuit City and there was a 43" Hitachi next to a 40" Panasonic LCD-based rear projection. I told the salesman that I really liked the depth of the Panasonic but that the technology was still developing, that everything looked as if I was watching cartoons. The salesman started to adjust the settings on the Panasonic w/ no success. A footbal game was being played and on the Panasonic the player's gold trunks on one team looked like fluorescent lemon popsicles! The salesman just waked away at the first oportunity...
McGrogan, the Panasonic TV the Guru purchased is the same TV I'm referring to except for the size. One is 36" 4:3 and the other 34" 16:9. I like them better than the SONY's. You should make an effort to take a line conditioner to the store. Also, them Tice PC3 power cords work *extremely* well with TVs. I have plugged a PC3 to my Tice A/V Solo and then use my PS Audio Juice Bar to plug my TV and the improvements in picture quality have been outstanding.
Psychicanimal--do you bring your own sources in too? The thing that really burns me is seeing a really nice set in a store not being demo'ed with decent material. The bargain shops seem to get some cable feed or something and split forty seven different ways and you end up with this really crappy picture on a $20K plasma screen. Half the time, if you look at the back, they are running source material in using RF or composite video when the monitor has a nice set of component video jacks. *sigh*
In terms of the settings, it may not all be the retailers fault. Most of the manufacturers deliver sets with the contrast and warmth boosted because they think that is what people want. JCMcgrogan2, if you do invest in a decent set, spend the $20 or whatever and get a copy of the Avia home theatre DVD--I think Amazon sells it, although I recall it was hard to find in their categories. Steps you through setting the video the way its supposed to be--much improved the picture on my XBR.
Nah, just the power conditioner...gives me a good extrapolation point.
I used to work at a really good family owned audio/video store (Gallager TV/ Ithaca, NY). The owner, Steve Blumenthal, is a lifelong TV freak, and had a really nice setup with three satellite dishes and a tuner for each channel set up on three racks in the electronics shop. You can really appreciate TVs in his store, as well as see his collection of antique TVs. Circuit City and Best Buy have not been able to put him out of business...
This is Steve's way of setting up a TV picture. If you follow this you won't need a DVD to set up your picture;
1) Color off
/* the objective here is to get the best possible B&W picture */
5) Color ON
7) Drop brightness
8) Work on high resolution settings
Steve's method is foolproof. When I first started working I would be amazed at how fast he could set up a TV right in front of the customers!
I get *amazing* picture quality from my 27" WEGA...